To Whom It May Concern:
I am a runner. I have run marathons, 5K's, and everything in between. Today I volunteered to help at the last water stop of your marathon. I cannot tell you how important that last water stop is to marathoners. Many times I have had volunteers hand me a beer to get me through my last mile, I've had people run with me for a while to keep pace through the last mile, I've had volunteers cheer me on with rowdy behavior and cowbells. This is the most important part of the "marathon experience". Period. Our group volunteers to work the last water stop every year. We understand the importance of this stop, because we are runners. We pace the elite to hand out water, we encourage people with our, sometimes, crazy behavior, we ring cowbells, we run with those that are having trouble finishing, and we have camaraderie with those that are running. We are runners. Today, I witnessed what can only be called a gigantic train wreck at the last water stop.
First of all with the course changing this year, we were no longer placed at mile 25. We were back closer to mile 24. This is completely unacceptable at a marathon. The last water stop 2 miles out, and the remainder of the course was uphill. I am unsure if this was totally poor planning, or if our tables were dropped at the wrong location.
Our group was paired with another group, running the mile 11 half marathon water stop. This group was not runners. Here's a list of what I witnessed this group do today: Mixing Powerade with bare hands. Yep, nothing but a hand all the way in the Powerade bucket. One gentleman was smoking a cigarette over the water table. Their volunteers were holding cups with their fists, or with fingers in them. Several times, I witnessed cups fall to the ground, and they were picked up and reused. The Powerade that was being poured was incredibly diluted, and in fact I actually heard one gentleman say, as he was filling up cups on the marathon side, "We're running low on Powerade. Just dilute it." I corrected him, and the response I received was that he was told to do it by the head volunteer. Surely somewhere it is in the volunteer handbook it clearly states that diluting Powerade/Gatorade is quite simply, incredibly dangerous, especially if today would have been hotter.
The half marathon volunteers used all of the trash bags, when our group went to clean up, we could only rake cups into a pile, and had to wait until the very end to finally get trash bags. (Even though they had been requested several times.) Having the shoreline open during a race was ridiculous. There were runners, running in the lane that was open. Clearly no one explained to them that this lane had moving traffic in it. Oh, and it's totally unsafe. Once the half marathon side opened for traffic, volunteers were having to dodge traffic to get to the other side in order to fill up water buckets, get more cups, and to move tables. At ten minutes until 1, the gentleman came around to collect the porta potties. Isn't the course open for 7 hours? There are quite a few marathoners coming through still, and there are still volunteers and spectators. He told me that he was told to remove porta potties at 1. On the marathon course too? Well, that's nice. Let's remove the porta potty the last 1.5 miles. I requested he leave it, which he did, and then witnessed volunteers and runners continue to use it until course was wrapped up.
All and all, my day today was amazing! I paced some of the most elite athletes in the World to hand them water. I ran with a buddy on his way to a PR. I ran a mile with a young man who was running his first marathon, and was about to walk the rest of the way, and kill his shot at a 3.5 hour marathon. I didn't know him, but watched him as far as I could and he ran. HE RAN! I watched the children at my water stop give hugs; hugs to sweaty runners that needed them. I ran a mile with a lady who was about to give up. She didn't. That's what today was about. Encouraging others to accomplish a goal. A goal they have trained for. A goal they have dedicated themselves to. A goal they have sacrificed for. A goal WE have cried, bled, and sweat through.
Get it together Cleveland. It's about the runners. Not about not having enough Powerade, how soon you can take up the porta potties, or how quickly you can open up the shoreline. It's about them. Get it together Cleveland..........